In August we reported that the global share of US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves dropped to 59.0% in the fourth quarter of 2020. This was the 5th straight year of falls and matched the 25-year low of 1995.
As a result more people are thinking about a potential collapse of the US dollar. We recently had someone ask:
“If the US dollar was to crash how do you measure the price of silver and gold?”
We’ve had a very similar question previously too:
“Hi David, my fellow gold bug at work here just asked me the following question but I don’t know the answer, perhaps you do?? If/when the US dollar collapses, will gold still be priced in US dollars and if not, then what?”
This is a tough one alright and the answer is unknowable. But we’ll pull out our lucky crystal ball and have a crack at it anyway for better or for worse…
Table of Contents
- First Up We Should Define the Infamous “Dollar Collapse”
- Previous Currency Collapses Have Been Localised
- So if the US Dollar Collapsed, Would Gold Still be Priced in US Dollars and if Not, Then What?
- 1. Stuff Priced in Ounces Instead of Dollars
- 2. We Could See Another Currency Such as the Chinese Renminbi Take Over From the Dollar
- 3. A New Global Currency Could be Implemented
- 4. The International Monetary Funds Special Drawing Rights (SDR) could take over
- 5. In a Complete Collapse Barter Could Result
- 6. Multiple Currencies – a Free Market for Money?
- Another Option is There Might Not be a Complete Collapse of the Dollar
- A Common Theme in All These Options
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
First Up We Should Define the Infamous “Dollar Collapse”
We’ll take the term “dollar collapse” to refer to the collapse in value of the global reserve currency, the US dollar. This could play out in a number of ways…
It Could be a Hyperinflationary Situation
Perhaps the US Federal Reserve simply prints so much currency that buyers of US government bonds lose all faith in the value of the dollar and refuse to buy anymore bonds. And/or they even start to dump those they hold already.
With the US government unable to borrow, this would require the Fed to then simply print currency units to cover the entire US budget deficit. This is what has happened in the recent past to the likes of Zimbabwe, or famously in Weimar Germany in the 1920’s.
In this case the currency may still be accepted for a while but it takes more and more dollars to pay for goods and services.
It Could be a Hyper-Deflationary Event
As coined by Professor Antal Fekete in this interview: Prof. Fekete on Hyper Deflation. Where capital is destroyed and prices continue to drop further and further.
It Could be a More Gradual Event
Take the trade wars between China and the USA in recent years. Ructions like these could encourage China to avoid using the US dollar to settle their international balance of payments. This could prompt other nations to confront the US and see less and less use of the dollar.
Of course, all currencies today are priced with the USD as the reference point. And anyone with a cursory understanding of monetary history will know that this is a floating or elastic reference point.
But the US dollar needs to function in order for all currencies to continue to function.
Many talk about the US dollar being the first to collapse. However as the dollar is at the centre it could in fact be the last. We first heard Sandeep Jaitly say this many years ago and it took a bit to get our head around. Ronald Stoeferle also was of this theory when he was in New Zealand some years ago.
We have seen this scenario in action in recent years. With many emerging market currencies falling massively against the US dollar. A collapse is more likely to begin in the periphery and move towards the centre. So somewhat paradoxically, in a “dollar collapse”, it may well be that the US dollar is the last domino to fall.
Previous Currency Collapses Have Been Localised
In all previous currency collapses, there has always been some well respected and well used alternative currency to “swap” into. Take Zimbabwe as a recent example. They used the USD as their local currency, to dig themselves out of the very large hyperinflationary hole the Mugabe government and the Gideon Gono led central bank had dug for the country.
So the point is a US dollar “collapse”, regardless of the form it took would be a very big deal. Because the US dollar is the global reserve currency, there would be no other fiat currency to escape into.
People may instead choose to “escape” into gold. But what would gold be priced in?
Back to the question at hand…
So if the US Dollar Collapsed, Would Gold Still be Priced in US Dollars and if Not, Then What?
The short answer is – it depends.
We can think of a number of scenarios that could play out.
1. Stuff Priced in Ounces Instead of Dollars
If the US dollar was somehow completely wiped out, we could see a return to goods and services being priced in ounces of gold and silver rather than in dollars.
This may seem antiquated at first blush. However monetary systems operated for centuries in the past like this. Up until 1971 the dollar was defined as 1/35th of an ounce of gold. Although this was only between governments, not for the man in the street.
2. We Could See Another Currency Such as the Chinese Renminbi Take Over From the Dollar
The Chinese are certainly taking steps to promote the use of the renminbi. Setting up agreements with many nations bypassing the use of the dollar in international trade. They have previously allowed their currency movements to double to 2%, from the 1% which had been the case since April 2012. So the Chinese peg to the US dollar has been watered down further.
They are also further promoting the trading of gold. The Shanghai Gold Exchange delivers a vast amount of physical gold every month. Then the Chinese are also looking at how they could take gold in exchange for oil. See: China Begins To Reset The World’s Reserve Currency System
However, we also recall reading a quote from a senior party member that they weren’t keen to have the global reserve currency as that would require them to run a trade deficit as the US does. (The Triffin paradox says you can’t have balanced trade with a global fiat reserve currency. See: Why A Dollar Collapse Is Inevitable).
So perhaps this option is not as likely as many would say it is?
3. A New Global Currency Could be Implemented
This would appear to be the preferred outcome for the globalists and central planners. As it would give them even more control and power than they have currently.
One angle could be that the masses would be crying out for help and this new currency would be put forward as a way to transition to a “better future”. This could be “gold backed”, but would be tightly controlled by the few that manage the debt and credit of the world today.
4. The International Monetary Funds Special Drawing Rights (SDR) could take over
This is Currency Wars author Jim Rickards’ most likely outcome. It would see multiple currencies involved in a new basket of currencies. However the USD would still exist in this example as part of the basket. Gold would also be involved. So we could still see regional or national currencies still. Gold may still be “priced” in dollars.
5. In a Complete Collapse Barter Could Result
People trading goods and services directly is not the most likely outcome we’d say. This is the angle of those that say I’d rather have food, fuel, cigarettes and liquor to trade with, rather than gold or silver. (See: What Good is a Bar of Gold When the Shelves are Empty?)
However, in this situation odds are gold and silver would emerge if not instantly, at least after a short amount of time, as a preferred means of exchange and unit of account (as occurred in Zimbabwe – explained here.)
Plus there’s a limit to how much food, fuel and liquor you can store and how long they’ll last for. (See: Societal Breakdown: Are Gold and Silver Coins Better Than Tradable Items Like Tools, Water and Wine?)
So in this case we’d see a similar outcome to the first option. With goods and services priced in ounces of gold and silver.
6. Multiple Currencies – a Free Market for Money?
Here’s our ideal scenario. A free market for money as we discuss in more depth here. The Gold Standard & A Free Market For Money: What Do We Think About It?
In this case virtual currencies may also rise up – ala Bitcoin and others. However we think in a true free market for money it’s likely they would need some tangible backing. So perhaps gold and silver as store of value, unit of account (again goods priced in ounces not dollars), but some technological addition to aid in the means of exchange?
Just like any free market, odds are the best currency would become the most popular and rise to the top. Throughout history the best money has been gold and silver. We’re not sure that technology will necessarily change that.
Another Option is There Might Not be a Complete Collapse of the Dollar
A complete dollar collapse would be chaotic and would wipe out much of the paper wealth that exists today. So it’s perhaps unlikely “The Powers That Be” would allow this to occur.
But if things got bad enough how could they stop it?
With a “simple” overnight revaluation. We could wake up one Monday morning and the dollar might have been revalued so an ounce of gold is now priced at say $10,000. All other currencies would be affected by this move also – in relation to their value against the dollar. Holders of gold would be advantaged and all others would see a loss of purchasing power.
A Common Theme in All These Options
A common theme in all these options is that the purchasing power of gold and silver will have increased significantly from what they are today.
Well, there would be no reason for the monetary system to change if they didn’t! We could just carry on as we are today, with the US dollar at the centre.
Gold and silver remain very undervalued against all other assets. So they will likely have to reach higher prices yet in order to achieve a balance. See our blog category on valuing gold and silver for more on this.
What do you think? What would a new monetary system look like? Would things be priced in gold or gold still priced in another or other currencies? Let us know – leave a comment below…
If you’ve enjoyed this here’s a related article you might also like. Reader Question | Why is Gold More Valuable Than Worthless Paper
Editors Note: This article was first published 18 March 2014. Last updated 5 October 2021.